Soccer

Why Brandi Chastain thinks Kate Markgraf was right choice for USWNT GM

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USATSI

Why Brandi Chastain thinks Kate Markgraf was right choice for USWNT GM

Brandi Chastain and Kate Markgraf know each other well.

That’s to be expected of two of the most-capped players in United States Women’s National Team history, and of two women who played alongside one another in one of the most memorable games in American soccer history. Chastain and Markgraf played every minute of the 1999 World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl, and Chastain’s goal in the penalty shootout clinched the USWNT’s second World Cup win.

Twenty years later, Markgraf is leading the USWNT into its future. U.S. Soccer hired her as the team’s general manager last week, and Chastain thinks her former teammate is the right woman for the job.

“I'm very optimistic about her position and the changes and the influences that she'll have,” Chastain told NBC Sports Bay Area last week on behalf of Clover Sonoma’s “Strong Inside” campaign.

Markgraf, 42, will be tasked with leading the search for and hiring the next USWNT manager after Jill Ellis announced last month she would step down from the position. Ellis faced criticism for her tactical decisions, but became just the second coach to win consecutive World Cups when the USWNT lifted the trophy a month ago in France.

Chastain said that the talent pool has never been deeper, and pointed to breakout USWNT star Rose Lavelle as “a player that we can build a team around.” But what kind of team Lavelle leads is anyone’s guess, as many aspects of the next Olympic and World Cup cycle are true unknowns until a new manager is in place.

“[It’s] a big question with a lot of variables and without having leadership there, it will be hard to say what the next young players are because we don't know what style we're playing,” Chastain said. “We don't know what our philosophy is going to be. We don't know what our focus will be.”

The USWNT will in due time, but it was clear that Chastain and Markgraf were on the same page about some of U.S. Soccer’s broader goals. Although she had not yet spoken to her former teammate at the time of our interview, Chastain echoed Markgraf in identifying U.S. Soccer’s need to prioritize and streamline development.

Last week, Markgraf told reporters it would be her “whole focus” to do so. That covers a range of initiatives, including continuing to support NWSL -- which is managed by U.S. Soccer -- and also overseeing the youth national team setup.

Along those lines, Chastain thinks Markgraf is well-equipped to improve the sport’s accessibility in underserved and underprivileged communities. Five of the 23 USWNT players to make the trip to France were women of color, and the costs of entering soccer’s pipeline to colleges -- and, eventually, the pro ranks -- often are prohibitive for families outside of wealthy suburbs.

“I think she's been watching other countries around the world and their coming-of-age in women's soccer, and how much they have been influenced by opportunity,” Chastain said. “... I feel that she's seen the growth of women's soccer on a global scale that could potentially influence how we look for players here in this country, and who do we value and how do we value [them].”

[RELATED: How Chastain still inspires 20 years after iconic goal]

Markgraf, who has not served as a general manager before, will have to make these decisions in the shadow of the USWNT’s gender discrimination lawsuit. Mediation between the players and U.S. Soccer broke down late last week, just days after Markgraf’s hiring. The legal fight might not affect on-field performance -- the USWNT won the World Cup four months after suing U.S. Soccer, after all -- but the two sides appear headed to federal court.

Two decades ago, Markgraf’s relative inexperience didn’t show en route to a World Cup crown. And if you ask Chastain, her former teammate won’t show any in her new position, either.

Brighton-Wolves live stream: Watch Premier League game online, on TV

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USATSI

Brighton-Wolves live stream: Watch Premier League game online, on TV

Wolverhampton Wanderers have a window of opportunity to make the Champions League.

Thanks to Chelsea's loss away to Everton on Saturday, Wolves can cut the gap to fourth place down to just three points. While they won't play the Blues until May, a three-point gap with 22 games remaining is plenty manageable for Nuno Espírito Santo's side.

But first, Wolverhampton need to beat Brighton on Sunday. The Seagulls just beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates midweek, and results breaking Brighton's way could facilitate a move up into the top half of the English Premier League table. 

[RELATED: Video shows fans' racist abuse late in Manchester Derby]

Here's how to watch Sunday's Brighton-Wolves match online and on TV. 

When: Sunday Dec. 7 at 11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT
TV: NBCSN
Online: NBC Sports

Aston Villa-Leicester City live stream: Watch Premier League game online

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AP

Aston Villa-Leicester City live stream: Watch Premier League game online

If there is going to be an English Premier League title race, it's on Leicester City. 

The Foxes entered Sunday 11 points back of league-leading Liverpool, and Manchester City's loss to rival Manchester United on Saturday effectively ended City's quest for a three-peat. That leaves Leicester as Liverpool's lone remaining title challenger, and an eight-point deficit at this point might yet be too much to overcome. 

It doesn't help that Aston Villa stands in the way. The newly-promoted side narrowly lost to Chelsea midweek, and the Villans drew Manchester United at Old Trafford days before that. Jack Grealish's return to the lineup has reinvigorated Villa, and they can make a statement in their bid to stay up with a win over the Premier League's happiest surprise. 

[RELATED: Video shows fans' racist abuse late in Manchester Derby]

Here's how to watch Sunday's Aston Villa-Leicester City match live online and on TV. 

When: Sunday Dec. 8 at 9:00 a.m. ET/6:00 a.m. PT
TV: NBCSN
Online: NBC Sports